Alex Yoong: I knew the end was near for F1

Alex-YoongPETALING JAYA: Following the announcement that Malaysia would scrap its Formula One (F1) race ahead of schedule, former F1 driver Alex Yoong says he knew the end was near for the event.

Calling it “a 20-year marketing exercise”, Yoong told Channel News Asia that the race was meant to put Malaysia on the world map.

“It has been a 20-year marketing exercise and marketing exercises have shelf lives. So I’ve always felt for a few years now it was coming to its end,” he was quoted as saying.

Yoong was the first Malaysian to participate in F1, racing with Minardi in 2001 and 2002.

He told the news channel that the annual fixture only had “tangible benefits” as a marketing exercise.

“Do you get enough money from gate receipts or do you get enough money sponsorships to justify the fee that F1 charges. The answer to that is no,” he said, according to the report.

Last year, officials said Malaysia would discontinue its F1 Grand Prix race in 2019, signalling the end for one of Asia’s longest-running F1 races.

Razlan Razali, chief executive of the Sepang International Circuit (SIC) where the race is held, said the termination was “mutually agreed” to by race organisers Formula One Management and SIC.

He added that there had been a “dramatic decline” in both television audience and spectators.

However, on April 7, Prime Minister Najib Razak said the Cabinet had agreed to end the F1 Grand Prix effective 2018 in view of the low returns compared with the cost of hosting the race.